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Serve The Lord Where You Are, Believer! (C.H. Spurgeon)

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

“Providence, which arranged your surroundings, appointed them so that, all things being considered, you are in the position in which you can best display the wisdom and the grace of God. Now, if you can once accept this as being a fact, it will make a man of you. My Christian brother, or my dear sister, it will enable you to serve God with a force which you have not yet obtained, for then, instead of panting for spheres to which you will never reach, you will enquire for immediate duty, asking, ‘What does my hand find to do?’ You need not use your feet to traverse half a nation to find work, it lies close at hand. Your calling is near at home; your vocation lies at the door, and within it. What your hand finds to do, do it at once, and with all your might, and you will find such earnest service the best method in which you can glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. ‘A large family,’ says one, ‘what can I do?’ Train them in the fear of God; these children are yours to serve the Lord withal. What nobler service can a mother render to the republic upon earth, and to the kingdom in heaven, than to educate her children for Christ? ‘Working in a large factory with ungodly men, what can I do?’ Needless enquiry! What cannot the salt do when it is cast among the meat? You, as a piece of salt, are just where you should be. Immure Christians in monasteries and nunneries! why it is like putting salt into a strong iron box and burying it in the ground. Nay, but the salt of the earth must be cast all over that which is to be conserved by it, and each of us must be put in a position where our influence as a Christian will be felt. ‘I am sick,’ says another, ‘I am chained to the bed of languishing.’ But, my friend, your patience will magnify the power of grace, and your words of experience will enrich those who listen to you. Your experience will yield a richer wine than ever could have come from you had you not been cast into the wine-press and trodden by the foot of affliction. I tell you, brethren, I cannot go into instances and details, but it is a most certain fact that all about you, though it be a blind eye, a disabled arm, a stammering tongue, a flagging memory, poverty in the house, or sickness in the chamber; though it be derision, and scorn, and contempt, everything about you is yours; and if you know how to use it rightly, you will turn these disadvantages into advantages, and prosper by them.” C.H. Spurgeon, “Things Present,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 15. Originally preached on May 9, 1869. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1869), 273-274.

The Mockery Of The Cross (C.H. Spurgeon)

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: Let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.” Psalm 22:6-8

He is despised and rejected of men; A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: And we hid as it were our faces from him; He was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:3

And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.” Luke 23:48

“Earth never beheld a scene in which so much unrestrained derision and expressive contempt were poured upon one man so unanimously and for so long a time. It must have been hideous to the last degree to have seen so many grinning faces and mocking eyes, and to have heard so many cruel words and scornful shouts. The spectacle was too detestable to be long endured of heaven. Suddenly the sun, shocked at the scene, veiled his face, and for three long hours the ribald crew sat shivering in midday midnight. Meanwhile the earth trembled beneath their feet, the rocks were rent, and the temple, in superstitious defence of whose perpetuity they had committed the murder of the just, had its holy veil rent as though by strong invisible hands. The news of this, and the feeling of horror produced by the darkness, and the earth-tremor, caused a revulsion of feelings; there were no more gibes and jests, no more thrustings out of the tongue and cruel mockeries, but they went their way solitary and alone to their homes, or in little silent groups, while each man alter the manner of Orientals when struck with sodden awe, smote upon his breast. Far different was the procession to the gates of Jerusalem from that march of madness which had come out therefrom. Observe the power which God hath over human minds! See how he can tame the wildest, and make the most malicious and proud to cower down at his feet when he doth but manifest himself in the wonders of nature! How much more cowed and terrified will they be when he makes bare his arm and comes forth in the judgments of his wrath to deal with them according to their deserts!

This sudden and memorable change in so vast a multitude is the apt representative of two other remarkable mental changes. How like it is to the gracious transformation which a sight of the cross has often worked most blessedly in the hearts of men! Many have come under the sound of the gospel resolved to scoff, but they have returned to pray. The idlest and even the basest motives have brought men under the preaching, but when Jesus has been lifted up, they have been savingly drawn to him, and as a consequence have smitten upon their breasts in repentance, and gone their way to serve the Saviour whom they once blasphemed. Oh, the power, the melting, conquering, transforming power of that dear cross of Christ! My brethren, we have but to abide by the preaching of it, we have but constantly to tell abroad the matchless story, and we may expect to see the most remarkable spiritual results. We need despair of no man now that Jesus has died for sinners. With such a hammer as the doctrine of the cross, the most flinty heart will be broken; and with such a fire as the sweet love of Christ, the most mighty iceberg will be melted. We need never despair for the heathenish or superstitious races of men; if we can but find occasion to bring the doctrine of Christ crucified into contact with their natures, it will yet change them, and Christ will be their king.” C.H. Spurgeon, “Mourning at the Sight of the Crucified,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 15. Originally preached on March 14, 1869. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1869), 145–146.

Never more shall God, Jehovah,
Smite the Shepherd with the sword;
Ne’er again shall cruel sinners,
Set at nought our glorious Lord. 
– Robert Cleaver Chapman

For me Thou hast borne the reproaches,
The mockery, hate and disdain;
The blows and the spittings of sinners,
The scourging, the shame and the pain;
To save me from bondage and judgment,
Thou gladly hast suffered for me –
A thousand, a thousand thanksgivings,
I bring, blessed Savior, to Thee!
 – Ernst C. Homburg; trans. Mrs. F. Bevan

The Lord Jesus Christ As The Word (C.H. Spurgeon)

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” John 1:14-18.

“Lest, however, we should imagine Jesus to be a mere utterance, a mere word spoken and forgotten, our apostle is peculiarly careful that we should know that Jesus is a real and true person, and therefore tells us that the divine Word, out of whose fulness we have received, is most assuredly God. No language can be more distinct. He ascribes to him the eternity which belongs to God: ‘In the beginning was the Word.’ He peremptorily claims divinity for him: ‘The Word was God.’ He ascribes to him the acts of God: ‘Without him was not anything made that was made.’ He ascribes to him self-existence, which is the essential characteristic of God. ‘In him was life.’ He claims for him a nature peculiar to God: ‘God is light, and in him is no darkness at all,’ and the Word is ‘the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.’ No writer could be more explicit in his utterances; and beyond all question he sets forth the proper deity of that Blessed One of whom we all must receive if we would obtain eternal salvation.

Yet John does not fail to set forth that our Lord was also man. He saith, ‘the Word was made flesh’—not merely assumed manhood, but was made; and made not merely man, as to his nobler part, his soul, but man as to his flesh, his lower element. Our Lord was not a phantom, but one who, as John declares in his epistle, was touched and handled. ‘The Word dwelt among us.’ He tabernacled with the sons of men—a carpenter’s shed his lowly refuge, and the caves and mountains of the earth his midnight resort in his after life. He dwelt among sinners and sufferers, among mourners and mortals, himself completing his citizenship among us by becoming obedient to death, even the death of the cross. See, then, my beloved brethren, where God has treasured up the fulness of his grace. It is in a person so august that heaven and earth tremble at the majesty of his presence, and yet in a person so humble that he is not ashamed to call us ‘brethren.’

The apostle, lest we should by any means put a second person in comparison with the one and only Christ, throughout this chapter continually enters caveats and disclaimers against all others. He bars the angels and shuts out cherubim and seraphim by saying, ‘Without him was not anything made that was made!’ At the creation of the world no ministering spirit may intrude a finger; angels may sing over what Jesus creates, but as the builder of all things he stands alone. Further on, the apostle guards the steps of the throne against John, and virtually against all the other witnesses of the Messiah; albeit among those that are born of women there was not a greater than John the Baptist, yet, ‘he was not that Light.’ The stars must hide their heads when the sun shines; John must decrease and Christ must increase. Nay, there was one whom all the Jews reverenced and whose name is coupled with that of the Lamb in the triumphant song of heaven; they sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and of the Lamb. But even he is excluded from the glory of this text, ‘For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.’ Moses must sit down at the foot of the throne with the tables of stone in his hands, but Jesus sits on the throne and stretches out the silver sceptre to his people. Lest there should remain a supposition that another person yet unmentioned should usurp a place, the apostle adds, ‘No man at any time hath seen the Father.’ The best and holiest have all alike been unable to look into that excellent glory; but the Word has not only seen the Father, but has declared him unto us.

The text is as Tabor to us, and while in its consideration, at the first we see Moses and Elias and all the saints with the Lord Jesus, receiving of his fulness, yet all these vanish from our minds, and our spirit sees ‘no man, but Jesus only.’ Gazing into this text, one feels as John did when the gates of heaven were opened to him and he looked within them, and he declared, ‘I looked, and lo, a Lamb stood on the Mount Zion.’ He saw other things afterwards, but the first thing that caught his eye and retained his mind was the Lamb in the midst of the throne. Brethren, it becomes us as ministers, to be constantly making much of Christ, to make him indeed the first, the last, and the midst of all our discourses, and it becomes all believers, whenever they deal with matters of salvation, to set Jesus on high and to crown him with many crowns. Give him the best of your thoughts, and works, and affections, for he it is who fills all things, and to whom all things should pay homage.” C.H. Spurgeon, “The Fulness of Jesus the Treasury of Saints,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 15. Originally preached on February 28, 1869. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1869), 122-123.

Beware of the spiritual slide (C.H. Spurgeon)

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; But the LORD weigheth the spirits.” Proverbs 16:2
“Do you not know, brethren and sisters, that very often our ways seem very clean to us when they are not. I have learned by experience, most painful to my own soul, that I am not in the least qualified to judge of my own spiritual health: I have thought myself gradually advancing in the ways of God when I have been going back, and I have had the conceit crossing my mind that I had now overcome a certain besetting sin, when to my surprise I had found it return with greater force than before. Fellow professor, you may be at this moment walking as you think very rightly, and going on very well and comfortably, but let me ask you a few questions: are you not less in private prayer than you used to be? Do you not now hurry over it, do you not sometimes omit it altogether? Do you not frequently come from your closet without really having spoken to God, having merely gone through the form for the sake of quieting yourself? Your way may seem clean, but is it not foul when the mercy-seat becomes neglected?

  How about your Bible, is that read as it once was, and are the promises as sweet to you? Do they ever rise from the page and talk with you? Oh, but if your Bible be neglected, my brother, you may be just as diligent in attending to the house of God as you used to be, but is not yours a sad state of decay? Let me come closer still. Is there the vitality about your profession that there used to be? There are some in this house this morning, who, if they could speak, would tell you that, when to their great sorrow they fell into sin, it was because by little and little their piety began to lose its force and power of life. They have been restored, but their bones still ache where they were once broken, and I am sure they would say to their brethren, ‘Take care of allowing a gracious spirit to evaporate, as it were, by slow degrees. Watch carefully over it, lest, settling upon your lees, and not being emptied from vessel to vessel, you should by-and-by become carnally secure, and afterwards fall into actual sin.

  I ask some of my brethren here, and I ask the question because I have asked it of my own soul and answered it very tearfully, may not some of us be growing hardened in heart with regard to the salvation of our fellow creatures? Do we not love less now, than we used to do, those who are crying to us, ‘Come over and help us’? Do we not think ourselves getting to be experienced saints? We are not the poor sinners we once used to be. We do not come broken-heartedly to the mercy-seat as we did. We begin to judge our fellow Christians, and we think far less of them than we did years ago, when we used almost to love the ground that the Lord’s saints did tread upon, thinking ourselves to be less than nothing in their sight. Now, if it were the case in others, that they were growing proud, or becoming cold, or waxing hard of heart, we should say of them, ‘they are in great danger,’ but what about ourselves, if that be the case with us? For my own self, I dread lest I should come to this pulpit, merely to preach to you, because the time has come, and I must get through an hour, or an hour-and-a-half of worship.

  I dread getting to be a mere preaching machine, without my heart and soul being exercised in this solemn duty; and I dread for you, my dear friends, who hear me constantly, lest it should be a mere piece of clock-work, that you should be in the seats, at certain times in the week, and should sit there, and patiently hear the din which my noise makes in your ears. We must have vital godliness, and the vitality of it must be maintained, and the force and energy of our religion, must go on to increase day by day, or else, though our ways may seem to be very clean, the Lord will soon weigh our spirits to our eternal confusion.

  Do you know that to his people the divine weighing in fatherly chastisement is rough work, for he can put the soul into the scale to our own consciousness, and when we think that it weighs pounds, he can reveal to us that it does not even reach to drachms! ‘There,’ saith he, ‘see what you are!’ and he begins to strip off the veil of self-conceit, and we see the loathsomeness and falsehood of our nature, and we are utterly dismayed. Or perhaps the Lord does worse than that. He suffers a temptation to come when we do not expect it, and then the evil boils up within us, and we, who thought we were next door to the cherubs, find ourselves near akin to the demons; wondering, too, that such a wild beast should have slumbered in the den of our hearts, whereas we ought to have known it was always there, and to have walked humbly with God, and watched and guarded ourselves.

  Rest assured, beloved, great falls and terrible mischief never come to a Christian man at once, they are a work of slow degrees; and be assured, too, that you may glide down the smooth waters of the river and never dream of the Niagara beyond, and yet you may be speeding towards it. An awful crash may yet come to the highest professor among us, that shall make the world to ring with blasphemy against God, and the church to resound with bitter lamentations because the mighty have fallen. God will keep his own, but how if I should turn out not to be his own! He will keep the feet of his saints, but what if I leave off to watch, and my feet should not be kept, and I should turn out to be no saint of his, but a mere intruder into his family, and a pretender to have what I never had! O God, through Christ Jesus, deliver each of us from this.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Unsound Spiritual Trading,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 15. Originally preached on January 10, 1869. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1869), 22-23.

Here Comes The Son

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Antarctic sunrise

  The Atlantic magazine’s website recently ran a story on the return of the sun to Antarctica after 90 days of night.[i] Antonio Litterio, a researcher at the Concordia Research Station, eloquently described this event, personifying the sun in this way:

I knew that today you’d come looking for me. Over these past few nights, I’ve looked out of the window, captivated by the beautiful starry sky. But in my mind I was thinking of you and how I would soon see you again. Human beings need light to feel calm and to live: light really is life. Wanting to see you again was not about wanting to feel closer to the end of my time here; it was about recharging my batteries. Over the past few days, even that warm glow has given me so much energy. Seeing you now, entering my bedroom in the morning, is a beautiful awakening…Today, seeing the light after so long, for those few minutes the Sun lingered above the horizon, I felt something that was a mixture of a mother’s caress, the warmth of a hug, and the peace and energy radiating from someone important to you. At the precise moment when the Sun reached the end of its arc, settling on the horizon, we looked at each other and there was nothing left to say. I’ve missed you…[ii]

On the basic level of human emotion these are beautiful and understandable sentiments. If one has been bereft of sunlight for three months, it is bound to depress one’s mood. Conversely, that bright orb’s return would naturally be greeted with joy by any right thinking person. Having said that, Litterio’s comments echoed other famous words that speak of a higher light than the burning mass of hydrogen that naturally illuminates planet earth and the surrounding solar system. As John the beloved apostle wrote: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4.)

Trees, Life, & Light

Under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, John makes frequent use of images from the Pentateuch[iii] – especially the Tabernacle of Exodus (e.g. Rev. 1:12; Rev. 6:9; Rev. 8:3; the symbolism of the table of showbread underlies Jn. 6:32-33, etc.) The lampstand, the only light-source for the Holy place, evokes arboreal imagery. Like a tree it has branches, fruit, buds, and flowers (Ex. 25:31-40.) The imagery hearkens back to the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil in Eden (Gen. 2:9, 17.) It unites life and light in one object. John draws on this to describe the role of Christ as both life-giver and light-giver. But what do life and light really mean?

The Light Of The World

Life and light are vitally connected. Life in the Bible transcends mere existence. The goal of life is relational. One commentator makes the essential connection in Christ that John 1:4 speaks of:

He was the well-spring of life, from which every form of life—physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, eternal,—flows.…Creation leads on to life, and life leads on to light. Without life creation would be unintelligible; without light all but the lowest forms of life would be impossible…the one true Light, absolute Truth both intellectual and moral, free from ignorance and free from stain. The Source of Life is the Source of Light: He gives the power to know what is morally good.[iv]

The real meaning of life entails knowing one’s creator. As Christ says: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn. 17:3.) Likewise, light connotes both truth and purity in the Bible (Ps. 119:130.) “…In your light we see light,” says the Psalmist (Ps. 36:9.) The true God wants people to know Him; therefore, He has revealed Himself in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:14-18.)

He wants His creatures to walk with Him in pure and true fellowship (1 Jn. 1:5-7.) Elsewhere John writes: “The life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 Jn. 1:2-4.) Knowing truth depends upon knowing God and sharing in His life.

Wandering In The Dark

Life is to be lived in the light of God’s truth and holiness. He is the One who reveals how the world actually is, and what mankind ought to live for. Until one knows Christ by faith, spiritual darkness is one’s inevitable lot (Mt. 6:23; Jn. 1:5.) In fact, people love darkness (Jn. 3:19.) Apart from Christ’s saving work, the human mind is darkened (Rom. 1:21) and alienated from the righteous thought patterns of its Maker (Eph. 4:18.) Spurgeon powerfully depicts the lost man’s darkness:

Now, the power of sin is just like that. It hides from the human mind what that mind ought to see. The man is lost, but he does not know it; he cannot see the rocks that are just ahead. The man has soon to stand before the bar of God and receive his sentence, but he does not know it; I mean his heart does not know it. He trifles on, caring for none of these things…No matter how rich may be the mercy, nor how pure the consolation, he knows nothing at all about them, for he is in the dark. It is all dark, dark, dark with him, amid the blaze of noon.[v]

But after trusting Christ as Lord and Savior, the believer is delivered from “the power of darkness and conveyed [them] into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13.) Conder poetically puts it thus:

Brightness of uncreated light;

The heart of God revealed:

Divine, O Son of God, art Thou,

In Thee God’s fulness find we now.[vi]

The Lord directly states it this way: “…I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12, boldface mine.) As McGee explains: “This world today is in spiritual darkness, and the Lord Jesus Christ has brought the only light there is in the world. He is the light.”[vii] Ryle agrees in these words: “There has never been any spiritual life or light enjoyed by men, excepting from Christ.”[viii]

Out Of The Darkness Into The Light

Mr. Litterio was correct in connecting life and light, but he failed to note that this principle works on a higher level as well. The sun was created by the Creator of all life. He providentially uses it for mankind’s good (Mt. 5:45.) Until one knows the Son of God, however, life is unremitting night. It involves unceasingly groping in the darkness, perpetually wondering what is behind the dim unknown.[ix] To die without the Lord is to enter the eternal night of outer darkness (Mt. 25:30.) Thankfully, the Lord Jesus offers Himself as “the light of the world” to whoever will believe. As a classic hymn urges us:

Come to the Light,

‘Tis shining for thee;

Sweetly the Light has dawned upon me.

Once I was blind, but now I can see –

The Light of the world is Jesus.[x]

 


[i] Rebecca J. Rosen, “The Sun rises again over Antarctica,” The Atlantic, published 13 August, 2013; found here: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/08/the-sun-rises-again-over-antarctica/278620/ Accessed on 13 August 2013.

[ii] Antonio Literrio, “Return to sunlight,” blog post, 12 August, 2013; Found here: http://blogs.esa.int/concordia/2013/08/12/return-to-sunlight/ Accessed on 8/13/13. [Boldface mine.]

[iii] The first 5 books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, & Deuteronomy.

[iv] A. Plummer, The Gospel According to S. John, Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1896), 65-66.

[v] C. H. Spurgeon, “Deliverance from the power of darkness,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. LIX. Originally preached on November 29, 1866. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1913), 376–377.

[vi] Josiah Conder, “Thou art the everlasting word”; located here: http://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn.php/h/59#ixzz2bxfSfR1c Accessed on 8/14/13.

[vii] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, comment on Jn. 1:4, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 373.

[viii] J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, Vol. 1. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 12.

[ix]

Careless seems the great Avenger; history’s pages but record
One death-grapple in the darkness ’twixt old systems and the Word;
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,—
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

James Russell Lowell, “The Present Crisis,” located here: http://www.bartleby.com/42/805.html Accessed on 8/14/13. [Boldface mine.]

[x] P.P. Bliss, “The Light of the world is Jesus,” located here: http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/l/w/lworldij.htm Accessed on 8/14/13.

*Photo found here: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/u/TvyamNb-BivtNwcoxtkc5xGBuGkIMh_nj4UJHQKupC5SSBpr5b0RJGiewoNVqo45CZ4QLkuljpza/ Accessed on 8/15/13.